Green Bay is flooded with defensive backfield players. The new guys are of course drawing most of the press coverage. It’s going to take a tsunami of injuries this year to deplete the ranks of the team’s safeties and corners. For 2018, the Packers should be dressing competent players, three-deep, at the cornerback and safety positions.
Do you remember who started and played essentially the whole game at safety in last year’s opening game beatdown of Seattle? Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, yes. Morgan Burnett, also yes. And Kentrell Brice, yes again. Brice was on the field for 96 percent of the game’s defensive snaps, as the Packers went to a three-safety alignment. Burnett variously played safety, inside linebacker, and cornerback.
Brice was in there for over a third of the week 2 snaps though he had quadriceps and knee ailments. He missed week 3 with a groin injury, which still bothered him in week 4. Healthy again, Kentrell played almost all of the defensive snaps in weeks 6 and 7.
An ankle injury in that last game, against the Saints, unfortunately put him on injured reserve for the rest of the year. While his stats were somewhat meager, they were getting better each game.
This is a roundabout way of saying that Brice had earned his way into the starting lineup at the start of last season, and he got it back again when his early injuries healed. The Packers had great confidence in the undrafted safety, but injuries compromised, and then ended, his season.
We at Total Packers were also pretty high on the guy last year. Don’t leave him out of the conversation in 2018.
Brice is solidly built at 5’11” and 200 pounds, and he knows how to deliver a blow. He is probably the hardest hitter among the team’s defensive backs. Josh Jones might take exception, but he’s yet to make that argument on the field. Throw in 4.44 dash speed and his mostly other excellent Pro Day numbers, and you know Mike Pettine will want to take a long look at the former Louisiana Tech star.
Pettine likes to talk about challenging the ball in the air. Okay, let’s compare vertical jump measurements. The departed Morgan Burnett didn’t even do the test. Clinton-Dix, 33”; Jermaine Whitehead, 37”; Josh Jones, 37 ½”; Brice, 42”; Marwin Evans, 42” – that’s three-and-a-half feet in the air, people. Anything above 36 inches is darn good. Brice and Evans are probably 95 percentile or above.
While Evans is getting a late start at 25, Brice is still only 23 – he’s only one month older than Josh Jones. We’re going to have some spirited competition at safety when training camp opens. With a new defensive coordinator, with Burnett’s departure, and with Ha Ha’s subpar season, the competition for the two (or three) safety slots should be wide open.